Midway Marauder progress: clear parts and cockpit

The Marauder interior is coming along slowly – but first I had some work to do on the transparencies. Otherwise, installing the clear parts in the fuselage might have meant damaging the detail.

The Monogram kit has the radioman’s window correct, but the navigator’s window is too small and rectangular. I opened it up and squared it off using small files. Then, I added the glass in the radioman-navigator’s compartment, and the two windows in the lower waist, with chunks of clear plastic cut from a CD case. These were filed to shape, CA-glued in place and sanded back. The scribing was restored, some polishing was added, and they were done.


I’ll do some final polishing just before painting. The trick is to make them a little larger than you need, then mask them so the rougher part of the joint is obscured.

There’s one more set of transparencies I’m worried about – the tail gunner’s compartment. The kit has the right tail gun arrangement for the B-26B-5, but in the earlier models the tail was an almost entirely glassed-off stinger. I will admit that I’m cheating here: I’ll borrow a tail position from the Valom kit and combine it with the Monogram parts to get what I want. I’m just not up to carving a new tail position master and smash-forming a copy. Of course, this then leads to the question, “why didn’t you just start with the Valom kit?”

This early tail gun position had a single .30 in a ball mount about half-way down the stinger. The problem with this was that the gunner couldn’t depress the gun to fire at targets below him – hence, the modified tail gun arrangements in later B-26s. I have a strategy for the guns on this model I want to try out – especially for the nose and tail guns. I plan to install the body of the guns inside the transparencies before adding them to the model. The barrels will be removed and set aside until everything’s mostly finished and then slipped through the transparencies to mate with the bodies of the guns. The objective is to avoid the “porcupine effect” – a model with a host of projections that are just begging to be broken off through the final assembly stages.

The Strategic Aircraft Conversions cockpit floor and forward bulkhead have been CA-glued into the nose, even before painting. I think this will make it easier to add details without breaking them off in the process of fitting the flight deck. I’m toying with adding some detail to the radioman-navigator’s compartment; it will at least get a rear bulkhead and a desk for the radioman. As it stands, the forward part of the plane has been detailed with styrene strip formers, which was a fairly easy task.


I was thinking about wheels – should I swap some resin ones for the snap-tite kit wheels? No – as it turns out, even the wheels changed on the B-26, and the Monogram kit has the correct ones for an early B-26. Bill Koster was one of the big wheels at Monogram at about this time frame; I look forward to asking him if he had a hand in this remarkably accurate model, because the level of accuracy is almost shocking for a snap-together model of the 1970s!

Next up: more interior and propellers…


The Battle of Midway, plus 70: five great reads

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway. On this date, the U.S. destroyed four carriers and cut the heart out of the Japanese Kido Butai. It would be two more years before the Japanese Navy was completely defeated, and another year after that before Japan would surrender, but Midway was the event that signaled the turning of the tide and the end of the period of perceived Japanese invincibility.

There are several books that deal with Midway that are well worth reading and which can fill you in on the details of the battle:

1. A Glorious Page in Our History, by Robert Cressman, Steve Ewing, Barrett Tillman, Mark Horan, Clark Reynolds and Stan Cohen

Assemble a team of aviation history all-stars and this is what you get: the authoritative overview of the battle, focusing on the American side. This book is comprehensive, down to rosters of every American unit participating in the battle (except VB-8 and VS-8, a minor omission) including crew names and aircraft numbers. Modelers seeking to build American Midway planes should find this invaluable, but it’s also an exciting narrative, with many personal stories and first-hand accounts – plus, plenty of good photographs of the battle.

2. Shattered Sword: the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully

Any holes left by A Glorious Page are filled by this remarkable book, which explores the battle from the Japanese point of view and explodes myths about the decisions made by Admiral Nagumo. The image of bombs bursting on flight decks crowded with Japanese planes is familiar to us – but totally incorrect. Likewise, the delay in launching Tone’s No. 4 scout is viewed as the reason the Japanese failed to launch a strike against the American carriers before the Kaga, Akagi and Soryu were hit, but an analysis of the times of launches and reports shows otherwise. This book gives a detailed description of what happened aboard the Japanese carriers, from the locations of bomb hits to the agonizing deaths the carriers suffered. It also outlines Japanese carrier landing procedures, attack strategies and the personal stories of the Japanese participants in the battle.

3. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway, by John Lundstrom

The comprehensive book on early-war U.S. Naval fighter action, Lundstrom captures the small-town nature of the navy and how roughly 320 fighter pilots held off the Japanese Navy, culminating in the actions of Jimmy Thach’s section at Midway and the ferocious defense of the Yorktown by the American combat air patrol. Minutely detailed and intensively researched, the book also includes an exhaustive examination of the development of the Beam Defense Maneuver (or “Thach Weave”), which was employed for the first time in combat at Midway. The Midway section also includes rosters of the Japanese attackers, and there’s a very nice section covering Japanese combat tactics and formations.

4. No Higher Honor: The USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway, by Jeff Nesmith

A very readable history of the ship, focusing largely on its final battle, casts a light on the humanity and the character of the crew of the Yorktown. Although it repeats some of the great Midway myths – probably from taking Mitsuo Fuchida’s deeply flawed Midway: the Battle that Doomed Japan at face value – the stories of the crew and their heroism under fire is well worth the read. The tale of the battle to save Yorktown is well told here; ultimately, it took three Japanese attacks to sink her.

5. Beyond Pearl Harbor: The Untold Stories of Japan’s Naval Aviators, by Ron Werneth

There are plenty of books about American aviators, but Ron Werneth’s tome is one of the few with long-form accounts of Japanese aviator’s careers in their own words. The book includes the stories of Zero ace Iyozo Fujita, D3A1 pilots Kiyoto Furuta and Zenji Abe, Akagi maintenance officer Hiroshi Suzuki, B5N2 pilot Taisuke Maruyama and mechanic Kaname Shimoyama, and A6M2 pilots Kaname Harada and Yoshio Shiga. There are many other accounts as well. It’s worth reading to compare the Japanese airmen’s accounts to those of American flyers’ because, other than the sides they were on, the accounts have haunting similarities. These lucky survivors of the war were few when Werneth, a fluent Japanese speaker, went to Japan to record their words, and there are far fewer now, making this book a priceless contribution to the history of the Pacific War.

Midway +69 Model Display – the Photos

Yesterday, I was able to go aboard USS Hornet before museum hours and set up the Battle of Midway display. Here’s a “guided tour” of what’s in the case:

Here’s an overview of the display. All the cards have the name of the plane, the names of the crew and their unit, a description of what that crew did during the battle, and the technical specifications of the plane in question. (An aside – I was astonished at how much lighter the B5N2 and D3A1 were in comparison to the Devastator and Dauntless – they’re larger planes, but each is about 1000 pounds lighter than its counterpart!)

Azusa Ono built this terrific D3A1. You notice we didn’t call it a “Val” – since those names had yet to be introduced in 1942, we thought it best to use the comtemporary nomenclature.

Here’s my SBD-3, built as Clayton Fisher’s plane on June 4. He was Stanhope Ring’s wingman as Ring led Bombing 8 and Scouting 8 in the wrong direction, a decision that’s still controversial today.

Brian Sakai worked miracles to complete an MPM SB2U-3 Vindicator, flown by James Marmande. This familiar plane failed to return on the morning of June 4; it disappeared during the return flight to Midway after VSMB-241 attacked the battleship Haruna.

Daisuke Nakabayashi built the B5N2 commanded by Joichi Tomonaga, who led the torpedo attack on Yorktown. This plane was shot down by “Jimmy” Thach and it failed to score a hit, although two other Hiryu B5N2s did successfully torpedo the carrier.

Here’s the Zero that was well-documented in this blog. Iyozoh Fujita probably shot down four TBDs on June 4 before being downed himself by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.


Kevin James Bennett and Mark Schynert also build B5N2s; both of their planes – one from Kaga and one from Akagi – were present at the battle but never flew. They were aboard their carriers, being re-armed for the third time the morning of June 4 – when America dive bombers struck. They were destroyed along with their ships.

Controversy remains to this day about the role this E13A1 played in the Japanese fleet. Tone’s No. 4 scout was delayed on take-off by 30 minutes by a malfunctioning catapult, but poor navigation and messed-up timing may have actually helped it spot the Yorktown. Jim Priete built this Hasegawa kit.

Then we have the Wildcats – a mess of them, all built from the Hasegawa kit. Ed Ingersoll of Florida built Thach’s plane from the morning escort of VT-3 – he downed three Zeros, and later shot down a B5N2 during the torpedo attack on Yorktown.

Laramie Wright did Marion Carl’s F4F-3 using the Quickboost wing conversion.

I built Tom Cheek’s VF-3 Wildcat in 2002. Cheek scored one confirmed victories, and possibly two more, over the Japanese fleet, and may have been the only person to see all three Japanese carriers hit.

Mark Rezac built Bill Leonard’s VF-3 Wildcat; Leonard claimed a victory during the Japanese torpedo attack.

John Carr built “Pat” Mitchell’s F4F-4; Mitchell and his 10 fighters were victims of Ring’s navigation and all 10 had to ditch. Seven of the pilots were eventually rescued.

Here’s Beverly Reid’s VF-6 machine, built by Laramie Wright. Reid was another enlisted pilot who scored a kill during the battle.

Laramie also fought a battle to the death with Special Hobby’s F2A-3 Buffalo. His model depicts William Humberd’s VMF-211 plane; Humberd survived the fight between Japanese Zeroes and Buffalos over Midway, putting him among a select few.

And finally, two views of John Ferdico’s awesome Airfix TBD-1 Devastator. John built the plane of John Waldron, who broke away from the rest of the Hornet Air Group and attacked the Japanese carriers alone, losing every plane in the process.

The display is in the Doolittle Raid Room aboard Hornet – it’s much more impressive in person than in pictures!

Slow But Difficult: 1:72 Hasegawa Dauntless

The SBD-3 Dauntless is now occupying center stage on the workbench.  It has a due date of June 1, meaning I have less than 30 days to knock it out. However, while the A6M2b was a breeze of a kit, the Dauntless is not. Let me explain.

First off, the Hasegawa SBD-3 had a rudimentary cockpit. The kit originally came out around 2003, which is apparently about the time Hasegawa fired the guy who made their interior parts. No problem – I’ll just go aftermarket. The True Details interior is easily available, but the detail is really mushy. I picked up the photoetched set by Part, but it has such confusing instructions that folding together an entire cockpit seemed like it would take 30 days by itself. I bagged a Jaguar interior set on eBay, and that’s going to form the basis for the build – but even that has issues.

So here’s what I’m doing: I’m grafting some Part parts (ugh!) to the Jaguar set, and scratch-building additional stuff. For instance, the Jaguar radio operator’s floor looks awful, but Part nailed it. I cut the Part floor away from the cockpit floor, CA-glued it into place (a perfect fit, BTW) and sanded the soft brass to match the resin part. After painting, you’d never guess it wasn’t a part of the Jaguar floor.

The Part control panel is being added to the Jaguar forward bulkhead, which was somewhat lacking. I especially disliked the fact that it was blanked off just behind the control panel, with a couple of rudder pedals stuck on. I carefully sanded the back of the part until the blanked-off area was see-through thin, then punched it out with an X-Acto knife. The rudder pedals were replaced with the SBD-3 specific Part examples.

Jaguar’s set is missing some wiring and levers present in the real plane, but those are easy enough to make and add on my own. Ditto for the recovery cable – this was a braided steel cable that ran around the pilot’s compartment that would allow ditched SBDs to be hauled up by a crane.

I’ll use lots of Part’s details for the rear gun mount, but I’ll use the Jaguar guns themselves and dress them up.

Other work already done: the propeller’s painted, the wheels are finished, the kit engine has been wired and detailed, and the dive brakes have already been cut out and will receive Part dive brakes. Part’s set has all the interior detail of the actuators, which are actually visible through the leading-edge set of dive brake perforations.

So, 30 days. The race is on. Hopefully, at the end of May, SBD will stand for “slow, but done.”

Fujita’s Fighter Finished: FineMolds A6M2b is Finito

Well, it’s finished – the FineMolds 1:72 A6M2b “Zero” fighter (or kansen, in Japanese parlance). This was without a doubt the nicest model I’ve ever built; the fit of everything except the cowling-to-the-fuselage was without incident, and any problems were entirely of my own creation.

The little details added were the engine, the aerial, the cockpit and the brake lines. The cockpit also received a Quickboost Type 98 reflector gunsight. The clear parts are so perfectly transparent that the gunsight is actually visible, justifying the amount of work it took to get the two reflector panes aligned.

Finishing up was a matter of building a list and whittling through it. The list had to be organized carefully, with things like the wingtips, pitot, gear position pegs and mass balances last, because they were sure to get knocked off otherwise. Somehow, in the course of finishing the model, I didn’t undo done things through my clumsiness. I did manage to CA-glue the landing gear struts in backwards, however, resulting in a lot of undue work to remove them drill out the mounting holes and then drill and pin the struts. It’s always something…

So, I started it two years ago, finished it today, and its next destination is the USS Hornet for our Midway display. I think it may be the best model I’ve built. Now, on to the SBD!

Midway Mission Update: D-Day Minus 52

The Midway Mission is going rather well, with 11 modelers on board from as far away as Virginia and Wisconsin! Tonight, Brian Sakai volunteered to do an SB2U Vindicator (he had mentioned having a Miekraft kit almost done, but he’s probably going build the MPM kit instead of that old junker), and Mark Schynert showed off his painted Mania/Hasegawa B5N2 “Kate.” That was really exciting to see – and it makes me want to build a B5N2!

On my account, of the three planes I’ve signed up for, I have one done, one almost done, and one still in the box. The one done was finished in 2002, so that’s really cheating. The one in the box is the SBD-3 by Hasegawa. I thought I had one of these in the shed, but when I went through the mess out there I discovered that it was gone. I also discovered the shed has some pretty obnoxious spiders, one of which bit me on the forehead and raised a painful knot.

Lacking the needed “Speedy Three,” I turned to Hyperscale. Not only did I get another SBD-3, donated by the extremely kind Bill Moyers, I found out where my SBD-3 went – I gave it to someone a while back! I wish I had asked before the spiders got me! The IPMS discussion boards are going to net me a second SBD-3, which is good, because I now have a ton of aftermarket parts and it would be good to do one of Enterprise’s Kaga-killers.

The one that’s almost done is the Zero by FineMolds. Here’s the evolution of the finish over the last two weeks:

Here is is with the preshading in place. I hate over-done pre- and post-shading, so I had to consider that when I added the main color coat…

Which was applied fairly heavily, leaving just a residual trace of the preshading.

The blue bands were masked and painted. They’re a lighter shade of blue than that applied to the Soryu Zeros at Pearl Harbor, according to noted authority David Aiken, so that’s how I portrayed them.

Adding the decals turned what was a fairly low-key model into something befitting an aerial samurai. It fairly screams, “want a fight? It’s right here waiting for you…”

A sludge wash of Payne’s Gray brought the panel detail back to life.

And taking the masking off — that made me VERY excited. It came out all but perfectly.

This weekend, I’ll add the engine and cowling and see how far I can progress on the landing gear. There are a few other small details to paint or add – the landing gear indicator pegs, the position lights, the wingtips and tank – but this model is definitely in the home stretch. Once it’s “flown off” the workbench, the SBD will go into high gear…

Midway Mission

While working on the upper wing seams of Special Hobby’s Firefly V – a task more akin to woodworking than scale modeling – I started daydreaming of other projects that I could use as a form of distraction. I couldn’t justify any of them until I got an e-mail from the U.S.S. Hornet Museum, located not 1000 yards from my front door. They asked for help on two projects: a tribute to Steven Jurika, which would entail a B-25 and a TBD in 1:48 scale, and a Midway collection.

Midway, eh?

The ship asked for a representative collection of Hornet-based planes, but I already have two Midway models – Tom Cheek’s F4F-4 from VF-3/42 and, nearly finished, Iyozoh Fujita’s A6M2b from Soryu. I sounded the alarm and I now have volunteers in Laramie Wright, John Carr, Jim Priete, Randy Ray, Bill Ferrante, John Ferdico, and Mark Schynert, who are building Midway models, and Mike Burton and Domenic Ortiz, who have the needed models for the Jurika display.

I’ll be building Clayton Fisher’s SBD from VB-8. Fisher was the wingman of Stanhope Ring, who led the Hornet bombers out on a course that resulted in none of them finding the Japanese fleet. There’s no telling what the Horned SBDs could have done – might they have caught Hiryu and knocked out all four carriers, thus possibly sparing the Yorktown? Who knows. Instead, most of them ended up landing on Midway, then heading back to the Hornet.

Clayton Fisher is still around – I’ll be in contact with him this week to double check the side number of his SBD-3. In the meantime, I discovered I have a True Details interior, Moskit exhausts and some Tom’s Modelworks brass that will help jazz up the Hasegawa kit. Of course, I discovered this only after I ordered Eduard cockpit and dive brakes parts, Quickboost exhausts and wheels and a host of other goodies. All I know is that this will be a fully-outfitted Dauntless.

The aim is to have all these models in hand on June 1 for installation in the display – a temporary one, so the modelers all get their models back!

At this stage, we’ll have examples of the F4F, SBD, TBD, F2A-3, A6M2b “Zero,” B5N2, D3A1 and possible an E13A. Hopefully, we can use these models to illustrate the battle and to refute some of the myths.

There are some really great references for a display like this that do a lot to help the modeler. First off is John Lundstrom’s epic book The First Team, which documents U.S. Navy fighter operations up through Midway. It gives complete information for important sorties (including side numbers) and some markings drawings, but it’s really a great read and an exceptionally detailed history of the fighter side of things. Next is A Glorious Page in Our History, a gang effort by four great historians that provides an in-depth blow-by-blow of the battle. Again, it includes aircraft numbers and crews, making it very useful for picking out important aircraft and replicating their markings on models. Finally, there’s Jon Parshall’s Shattered Sword, which provides the first modern account of the battle that includes realistic assessments of the motives and objectives of the leaders in the battle and is comprehensive in its explanation of the battle from the Japanese side.

Mr. Fujita’s office is now decorated…

The interior of the A6M2b is now complete – at least as complete as it’s going to get, since I closed the fuselage up tonight! It’s tricked out with wire, bits of solder and lead foil, and a few other details. The levers are made from metal rod topped with a little drop of white glue; the effect can be pretty nice, as in the seat adjustment lever. I used the kit decals for the instrument faces, then flatcoated the panel and picked the lenses out with tiny drops of Future. These images look a little glossy, but that’s primarily because of the flash.

The inspiration for much of this detailing came from this build by a Japanese modeler. There are some things that I’m not too keen on in this model – the maintenance on deck is goofy, and I have no idea where they would keep the wooden stands on a carrier – but his detailing is quite nice and, in large part, on target with what I’ve seen in photos.

One neat addition I incorporated on my build was the inclusion of oxygen bottles behind the cockpit bulkhead; mine came from a Prieser HO-scale set of portable generators. I added tape for the straps and painted them; the gray paint was scraped off and revealed a bit of the green plastic, which looks like a weathered tank would look.

The seat was drilled out and given Re-Heat straps, and various cables and wire were made from steel wire I found in a set of computer speakers. I accidentally slammed the speakers’ connector in a file cabinet drawer, which neatly severed it and turned it into modeling material. Recycling! See – scale modeling is a green hobby!

So, now the fuselage is joined; I did this primarily to protect the interior detailing. This is a small kit, it fits well, and it’s easy to deceive myself into thinking I can knock it out quickly. I will work to avoid that self-deception.

While I was pondering this build, I received a copy of Ron Werneth’s Beyond Pearl Harbor: the Untold Stories of Japan’s Naval Aviators. In it, Ron interviews Iyozoh Fujita, the aviator whose plane I’m building. It’s great to be able to put a human voice to the model. The entire book is terrific, by the way – it sheds much light on a largely untold side of World War II in the air.

Oh, and by the way, FineMolds is at this again: They’ve now done an A6M3 in conjunction with another magazine.

Why I build Midway subjects

I always seem eager to start new projects, but somehow loathe to finish them. I say this because on my workbench at home sit the pieces of not the B-24 but my 1:72 FineMolds A6M2b Type 21 Zero. I started the model this morning before work by drilling out the lightening holes in the rear cockpit bulkhead; this kit has an interior comparable to the Tamiya P-47 in terms of completeness. For the most part, it makes an aftermarket set unnecessary. Of course, that is not to say that I won’t add something to the cockpit – probably some photoetched seat belts at the very least.

This project is pretty exciting – No. 2 in my Midway collection, which will include examples of all the planes used int he battle by the time all’s said and done. My first bit of aviation writing came in sixth grade with a report on Pearl Harbor and Midway that was about 30 pages long, or six times longer than the assignment. My teacher accused me of plagiarism until I produced the stack of books I used for research. Looking back, I’m surprised that any sixth grader would grind through Prange, Fuchida and all the other authors readily available back in 1978, but I guess the subject had some resonance. My grandfather and I went to see the movie “Midway” (in Senssurround!) when it came out, and so it was really the first World War II battle I knew very much about.  The film could be the subject of a rather dangerous drinking game – when you see a historical inaccuracy, drink! – and much of the editing of the combat scenes makes no sense, but it’s entertaining, and provides a good jumping off point for learning about what really happened. Plus, with a vast cast of actors including Tom Selleck, Erik Estrada, Dabney Coleman and even Larry Czonka (he plays the Yorktown’s engineering officer, Cdr. Delaney), it’s extremely useful  to know when you’re playing “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

And, as I said a few days ago, the Midway Roundtable’s given me a great – and accurate, and often first-hand – understanding of the battle. So of course Midway holds an attraction for my modeling. However, I think the Roundtable spoiled me a little. If I had a question about something – “what were the codes on Red Parks’ F2A-3?” for example – I had an answer in about 24 hours from fairly irrefutable sources – if Mark Horan, John Lundstrom or Barrett Tillman tells you something, it’s generally not something pulled from thin air. However, Japanese aircraft are another matter. David Aiken has done some great scholarship around the subject, but the reality of the matter is this: because the U.S. Navy dealt the Japanese carriers such a shocking and complete blow, there’s almost no photographic record of the Japanese side of Midway to draw from. As your carrier was burning, and you prepared to abandon ship, would running down to the photo lab with (filled with flammable chemicals and film stock) to grab snapshots of the air wing be a high priority? Probably not.

So, using David’s research and advice, I settled on a subject: Lt. Iyozoh Fujita. This was partly because I already had the markings in my decal bin, and partly because Fujita was a big scorer at Midway; some sources credit him with 10 victories on June 4. His career score is given as anything between 11 and 42, but Fujita himself said that he shot down just seven. In any event, Fujita was one of those who intercepted first Torpedo Six and then Torpedo Three at Midway and, in fact, lost his wingman Teruo Kawamato to Tom Cheek who was escorting VT-3. Fujita claimed three TBDs and a shared fourth, but while chasing outbound SBDs he was hit by antiaircraft fire and had to bail out at low altitude. He survived the war and ended up flying 747s for Japan Air.

That’s my subject – now I just have to build it. Where’s that bottle of aotake?

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